Every year there are multiple players who slip through the cracks in the draft who go on to have fantastic careers in the NFL. Whether they are late-round picks, undrafted free agents, or anything in between, these under-the-radar prospects are the most exciting because they seem to come out of nowhere.
The Dallas Cowboys are a team who have found a few of these “sleepers”. Who would’ve guessed Dak Prescott would go from a measly fourth-round pick to a superstar QB, or Cole Beasley would go from UDFA to one of the best slot receivers in the game. These are the types of under-the-radar prospects who make the NFL draft so interesting each year.
With that in mind, we will attempt to build an “all-sleeper” team for the Dallas Cowboys with prospects in the 2021 draft class who probably aren’t receiving the kind of attention they deserve.
QB - Sam Ehlinger (Texas)
Sam Ehlinger is a strong/powerful quarterback who reminds a bit of Dak Prescott, both now and coming out of college. Ehlinger, like Dak, is a natural leader whose teammates rally around. He plays the position with rare physicality, competitiveness, and comes with a wealth of experience after starting as a true freshman. He needs to improve his throwing mechanics, but overall he’s an intriguing QB prospect who could be a better pro QB than a collegiate one.
RB - Chris Evans (Michigan), Kene Nwangwu (Iowa State)
Chris Evans was looking like a breakout RB prospect in 2018, but unfortunately had to sit out the entire 2019 season due to an academic suspension. Once he returned to the lineup in 2020 he shared carries in a crowded backfield. Despite that, he has intriguing traits to become a three-down RB at the next level.
Kene Nwangwu was primarily a backup and special teams player during his time at Iowa State. When given the chance though he showed good speed, power, and elusiveness as a runner, and caught the ball well out of the backfield as well. He could serve as the primary kick returner for the Dallas Cowboys early on and potentially earn a significant offensive role in a year or two.
WR - Ihmir Smith-Marsette (Iowa), Simi Fehoko (Stanford), Cade Johnson (South Dakota State)
Simi Fehoko profiles as an X receiver with the Dallas Cowboys. His size (6’4”, 222), speed (4.43), and large catch radius are all intriguing traits worth building upon. He’s also an excellent special teams player.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette profiles as a Z receiver at the next level. He is a deep threat with inside/out versatility and his natural speed makes him dangerous anytime he has the ball in his hands, especially in the return game.
Cade Johnson is likely a slot WR only prospect at the next level due to his size (5’10”, 184). He does have value as a return man as well. He is surprisingly polished as a route runner and a threat after the catch.
TE – Jacob Harris (UCF)
Jacob Harris was a slot WR during his time at UCF, but projects better as a move TE in the NFL. His rare size (6’5”, 220), speed (4.40), and athleticism make him an intriguing developmental prospect who could play a niche role early on as a mismatch weapon or red zone threat.
OT - James Hudson (Cincinnati), Alaric Jackson (Iowa)
James Hudson is a former DT turned OT who possesses intriguing power, athleticism, and aggressiveness for a developmental prospect. He may need a year or two to refine his technique, but he could become Tyron Smith’s eventual replacement with the Cowboys in the not-too-distant future.
Alaric Jackson might be a “right tackle only” player at the next level and may need to be kicked inside to guard because he has questionable athleticism. But, he has a ton of experience and could bring position flex to the Cowboys O-line.
OG - Robert Hainsey (Notre Dame), William Sherman (Colorado)
Robert Hainsey was a three-year starter at right tackle and two-year captain during his time at Notre Dame. At the Senior Bowl he proved he’s more than capable kicking inside and could give the Cowboys offensive line a player capable of starting at RT, C, or either OG positions.
William Sherman was a three-year starter at both RT and LT during his time at Colorado. He is a tackle-to-guard prospect who has upside as a center as well. He’s a Dallas native (Allen, Texas) and blocked for Kyler Murray as a sophomore, leading the team to a 16-0 season and 6A state championship in 2014.
C - Drew Dalman (Stanford)
It’s somewhat surprising Drew Dalman isn’t receiving more love than he is. He may be a bit undersized (6’3”, 295), but he’s a starting-caliber center in the NFL who plays with excellent technique, quickness, and anticipation. He could push Tyler Baidasz for the starting job or take over for Joe Looney as the Cowboys swing OG/C.
EDGE - Dayo Odeyingbo (Vanderbilt), William Bradley-King (Baylor)
Dayo Odeyingbo is a versatile EDGE prospect who could step into the Tyrone Crawford role with the Cowboys. He has a similar build at 6’5”, 285 lbs. and the same kind of DE/DT position flex. He may need a redshirt year after a recent Achilles injury, but his talent/upside is worth stashing for a season.
William Bradley-King was a one-year starter at Baylor after transferring from Arkansas State, but still managed to stay highly productive. The 6’4”, 252 lb. EDGE player is a smart pass rusher who is a grinder with a nonstop motor. He should make an early impact in sub-packages and on special teams.
DT - Bobby Brown III (Texas A&M), Tedarrell Slayton (Florida)
Bobby Brown III is a former four-star recruit out of high school and two-year starter as the 1-tech at Texas A&M. He’s a Dallas native (Arlington, Texas) and just 20 years old. The 6’4”, 322 lb. DT is a piece of moldable clay with raw power and the athletic traits to become an eventual starter.
Tedarrell Slayton switched from OG to DT once arriving in Florida and struggled adapting to the defensive side of the ball early on. The 6’4”, 340 lb. DT was a one-year starter who flashed raw power and impressive athleticism for a player his size. He has starting-caliber traits worth developing.
LB - Derrick Barnes (Purdue), Buddy Johnson (Texas A&M), Garrett Wallow (TCU)
Derrick Barnes played inside linebacker and EDGE at Purdue, but projects as an MLB in the Cowboys 4-3 system. At 6’0”, 238 lbs., Barnes is a little on the short side, however, he possesses good length and sideline-to-sideline range to make an early impact as a backup and core special teams player.
Buddy Johnson (6’0”, 229) is another undersized LB prospect who played both WILL and MLB during his time at Texas A&M. He has excellent read-and-react skills and range to track down the ball carrier. He’s likely a special teams player early on, but has starting potential down the road.
Garrett Wallow (6’2”, 220) is a safety turned linebacker who had off-the-charts production during his time at TCU. With the Cowboys, he would not only provide much-needed depth at WILL LB, but would be a core special teams player as well early on with the chance to start in a year or two.
CB - Paulson Adebo (Stanford), Mark Gilbert (Duke)
Paulson Adebo should probably be receiving more love than he has this year. He fits the size, speed, and length profile teams look for in their outside CB prospects and has intriguing ball skills as well. He could be a starting-caliber CB with the Cowboys and someone who possibly has the versatility to play FS as well.
Nephew of Sean Gilbert and cousin of Darrelle Revis, Mark Gilbert has 21 years of NFL experience pulsing through his veins. He was once considered a top CB prospect before an unfortunate hip injury all but wiped out the last two seasons of his career, but he has intriguing upside if he can remain healthy.
S - Ar’Darius Washington (TCU), Caden Sterns (Texas)
Ar’Darius Washington is proof big things come in small packages. At 5’8”, 179 pounds he has less than an ideal build for a starting safety in the NFL, but he has excellent instincts, timing, and vision in coverage. He’s talented enough to compete for a starting job early on with the Cowboys.
Caden Sterns has a prototypical size (6’0”, 210) and athleticism NFL teams look for their safety prospects, but not really the production. He looked like a star in the making as a freshman, but injuries and lack of production have turned him into somewhat of a forgotten prospect this year.